StarKist’s 50th celebration begins with ASG gala
“StarKist to American Samoa is not just a business, it’s family to both American Samoa and Samoa,” declared Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga during his special remarks last night at the Governor Rex Lee Auditorium where ASG hosted a welcoming ava ceremony and dinner as part of the StarKist Samoa 50th Anniversary in the territory.
Mr. Jaechul Kim, chairman and owner of Dongwon Industries, the South Korean owner of StarKist Co., told the audience last night that “rain or not” the anniversary celebration will go on as scheduled today at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Throughout yesterday, the territory was deluged with heavy rain and by this morning there was still a drizzle of rain throughout the main island of Tutuila. It’s a cloudy morning for the territory but the 2,000 strong StarKist Samoa workforce along with others have gathered at the stadium field to prepare for the start of the program, which includes a parade.
Last night’s event opened with the traditional welcoming ava ceremony, which was initially scheduled for the Fale Tele at Utulei Beach. But the bad weather forced it into the auditorium, where Mr. Kim told government leaders and the audience that the last 50 years of StarKist Samoa would not have been possible “without your continuous and consistent dedication and support.”
He said he had the pleasure of meeting with the governor on Thursday and appreciates very much the governor’s “dedication and commitment for the next 50-years” for StarKist in American Samoa.
“I look forward to the next half century and solidifying the partnership with the American Samoa government,” he said thru an interpreter, adding that most of the speeches will be delivered today and he looks forward to the celebration.
Lolo told the audience that StarKist Samoa opened its doors in American Samoa fifty-years ago. “StarKist to American Samoa is not just a business, it’s family to both American Samoa and Samoa,” he said. “We come together to celebrate the hard work, the commitment and the dedication of the people who made this very important achievement come to reality.”
He pointed out that la business lasting for 50 years or over “is a feat that is hard to accomplish and achieve but StarKist has been able to survive.”
He shared his own personal experience with the canneries growing up part of his life in Atu’u next to the canneries. “My mother was one of the workers at the canneries. She worked to put us in school, to put food on our table, and to provide the necessary support that brought our family, to where we are today,” he recalled. “I’m pretty sure we all share the same experience. And we thank God, that we have a company that takes people and serves the people to the best of its ability.”
He says both American Samoa and Samoa should be thankful as well as thankful to God for “giving us StarKist” a company that helped the two Samoas over the years.
(A majority of the StarKist Samoa workforce over the last 50-years have been from neighboring Samoa. Prior to closing its operations in the territory Chicken of the Sea cannery had a workforce, whose majority also were from Samoa).
The governor said that over the last 10 years there were two canneries operating in the territory and they raked in over $50 million in payroll. “How that translates into Samoan life - both in American Samoa and Samoa - it’s a tremendous contribution and a tremendous success for the company,” he said.
To Mr. Kim and StarKist executive and board of directors who were in the audience, “you have done a tremendous job,” said Lolo. “Despite the hard times, the world global economy went down, you’re able to hang on and provide the help that American Samoa wanted at the time.”
“Although our economy is still in trouble, we thank God, we have a company that stands besides us,” he said.
He wished StarKist success for the next 50 years “and hopefully, StarKist will remain the economic base for this territory.”
At the start of the dinner program, Rev. Iasepi Ulu of CCCAS Fagatogo spoke about the special occasion before delivering the invocation. He says StarKist over the last 50 years has provided “a multitude of blessing” for American Samoa.
“This partnership and alliance which has been forged with our local government for so many years is the driving force behind this resilient community,” he said. “Not only has StarKist Samoa successfully produced world-renown products of marketable quality, but on the local level you provided employment, and have given hope to so many people.”
“Your presence in American Samoa has had a profound influence with many of our people who have worked hard to provide for their families, to get loans to build houses, purchase automobiles, provide a good education for their children, and establish a promising future for the next generation,” he said.
He also pointed out that StarKist Samoa has contributed over the years to the economic stability of the territory, “helping people pay off bills, and most importantly, assisting us in our never ending Samoan fa’alavelave.”
Ulu shared with the audience that he too had family members who traveled from Samoa working at StarKist and sending money back home to provide financial assistance.
“From wages and salaries earned by your employees each week, people have contributed to the building of churches, guest houses, public schools, local community projects as well as looking after us, the clergy,” he said.
He also said that StarKist has also contributed to the community through donations to the hospital, Fatuoaiga and various relief funds as well as numerous community projects. “StarKist has always been an integral part of the American Samoa way of life,” he said.
He recalled one of the highlights of the 2011 Samoana High School graduation in which the class valedictorian stated that he “was a proud product of StarKist Samoa. His family was not well-off but he owed his academic success to the undying support of his mother and the father who have worked diligently over the years at StarKist Samoa, to put him through school.”
As part of the program, Senate Secretary Leo’o Va’a Ma’o read a Senate Concurrent Resolution in which the Fono and the people of American Samoa commend StarKist Samoa on its 50th anniversary and thanks the company for their contribution to the territory.
House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale presented the resolution to Mr. Kim, who was told by Savali that he has been in the Fono for some 30 years, and the Fono “always supports StarKist Samoa because we believe, StarKist Samoa is the backbone of building the economy in American Samoa.”
StarKist Samoa general manager Brett Butler introduced to the audience the StarKist Board of directors including StarKist president and CEO Sam Hwi Lee and Mr. Kim.
The evening, which included entertainment, came to an end with special closing remarks by Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga.
THE NEW COMMENTS PROCESS
To make comments, you will need to register. You can register under your real name or use a 'screen' name. This way, people will be able to follow comments and make comments back and forth to each other. If you choose to use a 'screen name' no one will know your true identity. In either case, no email addresses will be available to anyone. It is an automated process. If you have questions, email: email@example.com
You currently are not logged in, please LOGIN to post comments.